Against the Odds: Shreveport man uses his feet for hands
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -
One Shreveport man was born without any arms, but that doesn't stop him from living everyday life.
DJ Gardner, 36, is the manager for his uncle's carpet cleaning company. He works hard looking over the employees-- many of whom are his own family. He sets and looks over schedules, answers calls that come in, and makes sure everything is in working order.
He does all of this without having any arms.
"I run into obstacles where people you know, they have doubts in my abilities right off the bat and they don't even know me," DJ said.
His uncle, Les Gardner, also the owner of Les Gardner's Carpet Cleaning, said it looks as though DJ has a disability. "But once you get to know him, you completely look over that," Les said.
Les has been a staple in DJ's life. He's the one DJ runs to for advice or to just hang out. Les watched DJ grow up and even pushed him to try new things, like swimming.
"I want you to jump in right here. It's very deep, but I want you to jump in here. And before I could finish, he was in the water," Les said as he recalls teaching DJ how to swim.
"Learning to swim, I remember them playing catch with me in the pool. I was like, that's not really the way you teach somebody to swim, but ok!" DJ laughed.
With a sense of humor, courage and an incredible support system, DJ is able to do anything he puts his mind to.
"I actually cook, I clean, I'm able to wash dishes," he said. "Doing all kinds of things with my feet."
Growing up, DJ said he didn't have an excuse to get out of anything. He even had to change his younger sisters' diapers... with his feet.
"I didn't get out of anything," DJ said. "None whatsoever."
DJ likes to go to the shooting range. He uses his feet to pull the trigger. He plays paintball with his cousins and friends, using his chin and shoulder to shoot the paintball gun.
He loves to draw. He uses his feet and sometimes his mouth, for smaller details. He's entered his drawings in art contests and actually won.
When he got married, he had to put the ring on his bride's finger with his feet. He wears his ring proudly on a chain around his neck.
"Standing on one leg, nervous you know, trying to do that and trying to light the candle of course the same way, and so it was really nice. It was different," he said of the wedding ceremony. Physically different, maybe, but not in spirit and mind.
"He blesses so many people. I mean, just every day. He's a shining star," Les said of his nephew.
"Anyone who's going through an obstacle right now, don't let that obstacle stop you. There's always a way around it, through it, over it, under it, whatever you need to do to accomplish a goal that you set, it can be done," DJ said.
DJ is president of a non-profit camp for children, Camp BILLY: Building Integrity Love and Leadership in Youth.
He coaches a 10-year-old and 12-year-old football league.
DJ said he doesn't wear his prosthetic arms very often because they're so heavy.